Sweetwater 15 Years of Heady Beers Dank Tank Barleywine

February 21, 2012

By the time you read this, I’ll have participated in Sweet Water Brewery’s 15th anniversary invite-only brewing party. I’d like to point out that this will be my very first attempt at brewing. Ever. Am I nervous? Eh, kinda.

Oh, it turns out there’s a little more to it than that. My Sweet Water contact informed me that I’m “representing the entire state of Florida” with this effort. Yikes. All of us making beer for the party will return in March for their Brew Your Cask Off event to see how our science projects turned out.

One more thing: The top 5 beers – as chosen by the party guests and the brewing staff – will be re-brewed and featured at Sweet Water’s annual 420 Fest. Yeah… no pressure.
It’s going to be a total blast and the brewery’s generosity is not going unnoticed. They’re throwing wide the doors to their cellar and bringing out a lot of their personal rarities. They’ve put us up in the swanky Artmore Hotel for two nights as well as making sure those of us arriving from far away receive gift cards for gas stations. Heck, just providing enough ingredients for over 100 custom beers is costly enough!

The logistics of all of us brewing over a 2-day period would’ve been an absolute nightmare so instead we’re all customizing one of five base beers. Mine will be a robust porter with cocoa and ancho chili powders, vanilla bean and coriander seed. Secondary fermentation will be due to agave nectar, Sterling hops for aromatics and London ale yeast. How it turns out, we shall see.

(Julio: I’m intentionally leaving out the name of my beer as it’s a little more than inappropriate; Dirty Sanchez. Even if the beer sucks, the brewing staff is gonna love me for that name alone.)

To commemorate their 15 years of brewing excellence, Sweet Water has graced us with a re-do of one of their very first ales. Originally an ESB, the 15 Years of Heady Beers release is now a barleywine packing a buzz-worthy 10% abv yet is very well-masked. Clear caramel with a dense head of tiny bubbles, the 15th gives out nice scents of butterscotch, peach, toffee and a fresh tree-bark that reminds me of walking through the woods right after it’s rained. Flavors of Whitman’s Sampler chocolate covered toffee play with candied orange peel, pine and lemon. The malt is massive but the hops add a bright punch of citrus to keep it in check. The whole thing comes together with a good carbonation bite followed by a slightly creamy mouth coating texture.

Now if only I could brew this well. Cheers to the first 15 years, Sweet Water. Here’s to 15 more.